A few months ago, my Dad was clearing out his deceased Father’s keepsakes and found a lovely gold pocket watch carefully stored in a chest in my grandparents’ home. My Dad had no idea how old the this beautiful timepiece was, but guessed that it had to be over sixty years old based on my Dad’s memory of that timepiece being in my grandfather’s possession. This discovery led me to delve into the history and importance of this fashion accessory.
Pocket watches were both a practical time piece and a status symbol from the Victorian era until they were superseded by wristwatches around the time of World War I, but they continued to be a traditional gift for employee s from their employers on retirement. The emergence of wristwatches on the fashion scene was ultimately the reason for the decline in wearing pocket watches, this unique accessory has made a stand and continues to be worn by celebrities and well dressed professional men.
What type of gentlemen chooses to wear such a distinguished and rather exceptional accessory? Without a question his tastes will lean more classic. His obvious style of suits will be a three piece, as a requirement for the vest pocket to showcase and house the pocket watch. The watch is worn on a chain to be anchored to a buttonhole on the vest that is then looped in a special watch pocket.
Although some men have pushed the envelope with a more nontraditional look by attaching the chain through the belt loop carrying the watch in the pants pocket or fastening the chain through the lapel hole (or boutonniere) with the watch being held in the top chest pocket.
The Pocket watch actually has a rich cultural history in film dating back to the celebrated black and white films as well as current iconic movies. In the movie “Lincoln”, as Daniel Day Lewis sat at his desk with the weight of the country as he formulated his political strategy to persuade the House of Representatives to pass the 13th Amendment to the Constitution to abolish slavery his pocket watch had symbolic meaning of Lincoln’s weighty decision. Steve Spielberg, after tying to get permission from the Smithsoneum Museum of American History to wind and record the ticking of Abraham Lincoln’s original pocketwatch, the sound designer located a second watch that belong to Lincoln at the Kentucky Historical Society in Frankfurt, KY. https://www.washingtonpost.com/entertainment/movies/historical-sound-effects-captured-in-spielbergs-lincoln/2012/11/13/f1aa9b0c-2ce2-11e2-9ac2-1c61452669c3_story.html?utm_term=.74368fead514
Other pocket timepieces had their feature roles in iconic movies including a Silver Waltham used in a scene by Kevin Costner’s movie “Dance With Wolves”; an Elgin timepiece used in a poker game of the movie “Titanic”; the pocket watch which inspired the plot in “Somewhere In Time” starring Christopher Reeves; and the pocket watches featured in the Harry Potter blockbusters just to name a few. The author, Harper Lee gifted actor Gregory Peck her father’s, Attorney Amasa Lee, pocket watch for his performance in “To Kill A Mockingbird”.
Pocket watches mainly fall into two styles, the open-face pocket watch, designed without a metal cover and the hunter-case pocket watch constructed with a spring-hinged circular lid or cover that closes over the watch-dial and crystal for protection of outside elements. The main designers and manufacturers of pocket watches include Omega, Tissot, Orient, Panerai, Phillip Patek and Cartier.
For a discerning man of style, the slight added detail of a pocket watch is the epitome of sophistication and distinction. It adds a rich layer to a well dressed man’s repertoire and I dare say, a sexiness and cosmopolitan aura that women find appealing. An accessory not many men wear, but displays a confidence and panache that only the a man of luxury possesses. -AJ
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Hat tip to the National Association of Watch & Clock Collectors, Inc . for the film props content.